Preliminary Report Says Ride Is Safe for Public

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A preliminary coroner's investigation has turned up no medical information that a Magic Mountain roller coaster is unsafe to the general public, although the Goliath ride may have triggered the rupture of a preexisting aneurysm that led to a Fontana woman's death, according to coroner's and CAL-OSHA letters released Friday.

Christopher Rogers, head of the coroner's forensic medicine department, stressed that the cause of 28-year-old Pearl Santos' death on June 2 had not been finalized. In a letter Thursday to Cal-OSHA attorney Len Welsh, Rogers also said that further studies "may reveal additional contributing medical conditions not related to the roller coaster ride."

Santos was found slumped in her seat after riding the roller coaster, which hits speeds of up to 85 mph, and was pronounced dead a short time later.

The ride was reopened Thursday after state investigators said they had subjected it to 10 days of testing and found that it was operating properly.

Coroner's officials say they will not have a final cause of death for weeks. But in their preliminary findings they have determined that Santos had a preexisting "saccular aneurysm," a balloon-like expansion in one of her brain's arterial walls. Aneurysms of that type can fatally rupture due to a number of common stresses, including arguments, physical exertion or the experience of excitement or fear, the officials said.

Welsh, in summarizing the coroner's findings, wrote that the office "has no evidence that the triggering stress Ms. Santos might have experienced at the amusement park was significantly different than any other common stressful events . . . that can trigger the rupture of an aneurysm.

"Consequently, the department of coroner is not aware of any medical information or findings in the case of Ms. Santos indicating that the roller coaster she rode is unsafe for the general public."

Welsh wrote to coroner's officials this week to clarify the positions they stated in a meeting as part of the Cal-OSHA investigation into Santos' death. "We felt we needed to get some kind of update," he said.

The information gathered at that meeting helped persuade the agency Thursday to reopen the thrill ride, although other factors went into the decision, he said.

Scott Carrier, a coroner's spokesman, said the Santos investigation will remain open until the office receives the results of toxicology and neuropathology tests.

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